All you need to know about sheep farming in one simple rule

All you need to know to be successful in sheep farming is “the inevitability of one.”

It’s a time-tested rule passed down from generation to generation of sheep farmers, told in whispers around the proverbial water cooler.

“You hear about Clive?”

“Yeah, poor fella. Never did quite get the hang of it, did he? Always chasin’, never closin’ the gaps.”

“It’s a shame. He was always goin’ right, they were always goin’ left.”

“Poor Clive.”

Apparently, Clive never heard of “the inevitability of one.” Would’ve saved him a lot of trouble.

I leave for Kenya in a little more than three weeks. But it’s been so busy on the farm for the past couple of weeks, I’m just hoping I have time to pack and get everything done. I have this nightmare scenario playing in my mind of frantically stuffing some clothes and toiletries in a suitcase 24 hours before I’m supposed to leave. *shiver*

Between moving groups of ewes and lambs from pasture to pasture, then gathering them, sorting, weaning, sorting again and again, and gathering the main flock for shearing, the days have strung together in a blur. It’s like a perfect storm of sheep stuff.

Yes, it’s been busy. But it would be unbearable if I didn’t have “the inevitability of one” in my arsenal.

What is this magical rule? Simply put, it means there will always be one.

If you put up a new temporary fence, there will always be one sheep willing to test it.

If you want to move a group in a certain direction, there will always be one brave enough to start that way. At the same time: If you want to move that group in a certain direction, there will always be one determined to go in the opposite direction.

If you want to move a group out of a pen, there will always be one that wants to stay. Conversely, if you want a group to stay put, one will decide to leave.

See? “The inevitability of one.”

Sure, it sounds maddening. It can be – as our friend Clive discovered. If you disregard said rule in any of the above situations, the sheep will not docilely follow your lead, they will follow the lead of the rebel. EVERY TIME.

But as they say, forewarned is forearmed. When you know there will always be one, moving sheep becomes smoother, sorting them becomes less strenuous and the heavens open and fairies sprinkle feel-good fairy dust all over everythi – er, sorry got a little carried away there.

If you think that last part actually happens, I have oceanfront property in Arizona we should discuss.

When you know there will always be one, you make all the sheep stay together – and you cut off the escape routes. When you want them to move somewhere, convince one to go and the rest follow. In certain situations, identify the ringleader and thwart his or her every effort to stage a coup. Sometimes, it’s the only way to keep everyone in line.

So, there you have it. “The inevitability of one.” Master this concept, and you’ll be a pro.

Or at least you’ll have all your sheep going in the right direction.

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